Jessica Walter


Actress Jessica Walter has died aged 80. The acclaimed actress was nominated four times for an Emmy (winning once for Amy Prentiss) and appeared in a number of films such as Ghost in the Machine, Slums of Beverly Hills, and Play Misty for Me. The latter and Grand Prix saw her nominated for Golden Globe awards. She was a regular stage presence, but was known as a dependable character actor on US TV through the 1960s and 70s. She was the widow of the murder victim in an early episode of Columbo, and appeared in still popular shows such as Quincy, Hawaii Five-) and The Love Boat. (Isn’t that a DDP team?)

In the 1990s she became best known as Fran, the henpecked mother in Dinosaurs. However, this was dwarfed by two popular shows of the noughties in which she would play leading roles. In Arrested Development, frequently considered one of the best US sitcoms of the past 20 years, she played Lucille Bluth, the narcissistic alcoholic matriarch of the family. Playing the role deadly straight, Walter wrung every bit of hypocritical humour out of the corrupt social gadfly, and worked well as the anchor among the zanier cast members. She appeared in every episode, though had notably aged by the final Netflix exclusive series.

The other show of note was non-child friendly cartoon series Archer, about a hilariously un-PC secret agent who swears and shags his way through trying to avoid saving the world. Jessica Walter provided the voice of Mallory Archer, the mother of the main character and his boss too, and in a very Lucille Bluth type role anchored the zanier characters through being a narcissistic alcoholic who played on hypocritical humour!

As her death was perhaps rather a surprise (she went in her sleep of undisclosed causes), she was only picked by one team – All Quiet on the Westerns Front.

Jessica Walter
31 January 1941 – 24 March 2021